by Tahir Bhat

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SRINAGAR: Expressing concern over the instances of child casualties in Kashmir, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Government to take preventive measures and end the use of pellets against children and their arrest.

Children pray on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr prayer at Dal Lake in Srinagar on Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Srinagar. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

The concern is part of the just-released yearly report of the United Nations on the state of children in the conflict spots across the world. It has reference to various cases about children casualties on either side of the Line of Control (Loc).

“The United Nations verified the killing (8) and maiming (7) of 15 children (13 boys, 2 girls), between the ages of 1 and 17, by or during joint operations of the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indian Army (Rashtriya Rifles) and the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police (10), Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (1), unidentified armed elements (1), or during shelling across the line of control (3),” the report relapsed on June 15 said. “The casualties that occurred in Jammu and Kashmir were mainly caused by torture in detention, shootings, including from pellet guns, and cross-border shelling.”

The report pertains to the incidents reported in the calendar year 2019 but it also mentions certain late reported cases as well. The UN’s special representatives are usually associated with the exercise and the incidents are checked and cross-checked at various levels.

“The United Nations verified attacks on nine schools in Jammu and Kashmir by unidentified elements,” the report said. “Of concern, 68 children between the ages of 9 and 17 have been detained by Indian security services in Jammu and Kashmir on national security-related charges, including 1 for actual or alleged association with armed groups.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in the report, said he remains concerned by child casualties in Jammu and Kashmir and has called upon the Government to take preventive measures to protect children, including by ending the use of pellets against children. “I am concerned by the detention of children, including their arrest during night raids, internment at army camps, torture in detention and detention without charge or due process, and urge the Government to immediately end this practice,” the report reads. “I note that the Government conducted age verification for some detainees and urge for its systematization.”

Under the Pakistan part, the report mentions: “A total of 23 children (2 boys, 4 girls, 17 sex unknown) were reportedly killed (5) and injured (18) during armed clashes or by shelling or targeted fire across the line of control (10), by improvised explosive devices (3) and explosive remnants of war (10) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces. Responsibility could not be attributed for any of those casualties.”

The report further mentions: “Three attacks against schools (2) and hospitals (1) were reported, but the responsibility was not attributed. The two schools in Pakistan-administered Kashmir were reportedly attacked across the line of control.”

The report, however, has indicated a decline in issues related to the children in Naxal hit areas. “I note the decline, as a result of government efforts, in the number of reports of child recruitment and of the killing and maiming of children relating to the Naxalite insurgency,” the report quotes Guterres saying. It said the police in Jharkhand rescued approximately 10 children from Naxalite insurgency groups, “who allegedly abducted them or used them in support or combat capacities”.

Around the world, Guterres’ report said the UN verified over 25,000 grave violations against children and there was a 400 per cent increase in “the denial of humanitarian access to children with 4,400 verified incidents”.

“The childhood of these boys and girls has been replaced by pain, brutality and fear while the world watches. Parties to conflict neglect to protect children in the conduct of hostilities and deny them the vital aid they desperately need. By violating the rules of war, parties endanger their own children”, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), Virginia Gamba.

In his report Guterres said that 39 child casualties in Afghanistan happened due to “cross-border engagements at the border with Pakistan” and one school was attacked during cross-border shelling from Pakistan territory. He said that Afghanistan was the deadliest conflict zone for children with 3,410 verified incidents — an increase of 67 per cent — affecting 3,245 children.


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